In 2019, Congress had promised in its manifesto to review the status of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The Congress, if voted to power, subtly promised to annul AFSPA and leave our armed forces involved in internal operations high and dry. The Modi government is also reviewing the status of AFSPA in the Northeast. On April 1, Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced a major reduction of the disturbed areas imposed under the AFSPA in Nagaland, Assam and Manipur. Here’s the difference between how the BJP and the Congress view AFSPA, and seek to address issues around it.
Congress pretends to hate AFSPA to score political brownie points. The fact that under its rule at the Centre and in states, AFSPA was extended from time to time and its area coverage was increased and Congress conveniently brushed it under the carpet. The BJP, on the other hand, views AFSPA as essential to tackling internal disturbances. Yet, the saffron party recognises that AFSPA imposition cannot be viewed as a solution in itself. It is a means for our forces to achieve success. It is not a problem solver by itself.
PM Modi Makes a Big Promise
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, an era of peace and stability previously unknown to the Northeast has been ushered in. There has been a drastic drop in violence in the region, while various militant outfits are being neutralised or brought to the mainstream by the “double-engine” governments of the BJP. Due to peace being brought into the region, AFSPA is gradually going on from becoming an enabler to an impediment.
Nobody knows this better than PM Modi. So, when in Assam on Thursday, PM Modi made a big promise to the people of Northeast. Addressing a ‘Peace, Unity and Development’ rally, he said that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act could be withdrawn from various parts of the region as the law-and-order situation has improved in the last eight years.
The Prime Minister said, “As the (law and order) situation improved with a 75 percent decrease in violence in the region, there have been changes in the imposition of laws. The AFSPA was first revoked in Tripura and then in Meghalaya…Due to the proper control of the situation in the last eight years, the AFSPA has been removed from most parts of the state. We are trying to withdraw it from the remaining parts too.”
He added, “The Act is applicable in some areas of Nagaland and Manipur, and we are working speedily to revoke it completely.”
Northeast’s Path to Development
On Thursday, Prime Minister Modi, inaugurated three colleges for veterinary science, agriculture, model government colleges in Assam’s Diphu. He also launched the ₹1,150 crores Amrit Sarovar Project to rejuvenate 2,950 water bodies across Assam. In Dibrugarh, he later inaugurated seven new cancer care hospitals, as well as laid the foundation stone for seven more.
Recently, the Prime Minister inaugurated and laid the foundation of 22 developmental projects worth more than ₹4,800 crores in Imphal. He also inaugurated the New Integrated Terminal Building at Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport in Agartala apart from launching two development initiatives.
PM Modi is devoting several thousand crores of rupees towards building key roads, bridges and other infrastructure in the Northeast.
The plan is to build robust transportation infrastructure in the Northeast and to connect the region with the rest of the country in a seamless manner. This is in line with boosting the tourism economy of the region and ensuring that the Northeast is no longer treated as an isolated region.
Behind all the applause about AFSPA removal lies years of groundwork done by the BJP government to facilitate development in the Northeast region. All state capitals, barring Meghalaya’s Shillong will be brought on the rail connectivity map by 2024. Eight years ago, thinking of doing so would have been considered maniacal.
With development comes empowerment. The Northeast is progressing at an unprecedented pace. The people of the region are slowly yet steadily realising that they are cared for in India. Successive Congress governments had deprived them of this sentiment. The BJP is integrating the Northeast with the rest of India seamlessly.